A few weeks ago we got an “advance review” from Dcn Joseph Bernard Gorini of the orientation book for the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 22 through 27, 2015: Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, A Preparatory Catechesis for the World Meeting of Families (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2014).
The booklet sounded pretty good, but (in our opinion) the editors might have left out a few things that they didn’t consider important. For example, the editors might not have a full appreciation of the importance of widespread capital ownership in securing the inherent dignity of the human person and integrity of the family. They also seem to be putting too much emphasis on State intervention to achieve results directly.
As we’ve said many times before, State intervention and redistribution may at times be necessary, even critically so, as it is in our day. Such measures, however, are not solutions. They are expedients to address an emergency. Nor are they “social justice” or, strictly speaking, “justice” at all. Such things come under the principle of double effect, which we’ve also covered before and won’t bore you with again. Today, anyway.
The response in social justice to the crisis facing the family in today’s world is to restructure the institutional environment (“the system”). The idea is to remove barriers in the form of flawed monetary and tax systems that inhibit or prevent ordinary people and families from owning capital without redistributing what already belongs to others. In this way, people could take care of themselves through their own efforts and resources and not rely so much on the State or on a rich private sector elite.
Perhaps all that is needed to expand Love is Our Mission is an addendum or something that can be downloaded free from various websites, a couple of pages or so. Widespread capital ownership as a solution instead of redistribution as an expedient is obvious once you think about it. The problem is that people are not thinking about it.
|Pope Leo XIII|
The fact is people have been so conditioned to think of the State as the first and even sole recourse in all things that they have to be reminded once in a while that the State was made for man, not man for the State. That was, in fact. Leo XIII’s whole point in Rerum Novarum, especially §§ 46-47, as the ubiquitous “Fulton Sheen Guy” will tell you. Speaking directly to the problem faced by families as early as 1891, Leo XIII explained in the two paragraphs that make it clear that it is the power aspect of property that is important, not just mere income,
“46. If a workman’s wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income. Nature itself would urge him to this. We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.
“47. Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is not without influence even in the administration of the commonwealth. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sick and sore in spirit and ever ready for disturbance. If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair.”
Yes, living wage arrangements, family allowances, welfare, etc., are essential in the current condition of society (cf. Quadragesimo Anno, § 65), but such things are expedients, not solutions — and, ultimately, they offend against essential human dignity at the most profound level and work to destroy the family, not protect and support it.